Today, I would like to write a post, clarifying a bit about my life with mental illness. I’ve alluded about my struggles with anxiety, PTSD, and past struggles with depression in several of my posts, however, I realize I haven’t yet discussed it head-on. That is kind of strange that I haven’t done so yet, on a blog about my quest for happiness. Hmm… o_O
Mental illness is often stigmatized in society and I did grow up hearing the popular criticism that people with mental illness are “crazy”. It was a very common judgment from my relatives and community. So, when my issues started at the age of six years old, the first emotions I felt was denial and shame. I tried to pretend that there was nothing wrong with me and I tried to keep an appearance that I was “normal”.
My issue started as social anxiety at the age of six, during the time that I was enrolled in the local Elementary school. My parents kept me very sheltered and away from peers, so I was terrified of being around other children for the first time. It didn’t help that I had a sadistic father who thought it was amusing to whisper to me that the other children were going to hate me because I was so stupid and lame.
I’ve always been a nerd, even as a child, so I was excited to go to school because I LOVE learning. However, my father’s cruel joke messed with my head considerably, and every time a fellow classmate made fun of me or a clique shunned me, it served as a confirmation that what he had said to me was the “truth”.
During all of my school days, from age six to eighteen, I pretty much withdrew away from my peers and was much bullied for being “odd” or different, as I was usually the only nerdy kid in the class that always followed the rules and loved to do homework and other learning projects. Yes, I was very much the Hermione Granger character in school, minus having cool pals like Harry and Ron. In fact, I didn’t have any friends, apart from a few cats at home.
By the age of twelve, the lack of friendships and increased bullying is what caused my first bout of severe depression. Not to mention, that was the age that I had first discovered I am bisexual, which only added more anxiety and shame on top of what I had already carried. By the age of sixteen, I was convinced that I was a mistake to the world and the only way to remedy it was by killing myself. This lead to many unsuccessful suicidal attempts and five hospitalization stays at local in-patient mental health facilities.
I was alone, felt very ashamed, and hated myself more than anyone else could ever do so.
At age 21, something terrible happened to me, where I nearly lost my life. I will not share those details, it’s private information only for my therapist and relatives to know about it. Thus began my struggle with PTSD. It wasn’t until I was age 25 when I decided to reach out for help, to stop trying to pretend that I could handle my issues on my own, and to face my fears head-on.
It was terrifying for me to show up at the local clinic for outpatient treatment the first time. It was a lot nerve-wracking to sit in the waiting room with other patients, as most were there for medical appointments. I kept worrying that everyone could tell that I was the “crazy” one in the room, that at any moment I would be criticized for trying to seek help.
I grew up in an environment that often taught that asking for help is a sign of weakness, not a strength at all, and I still struggle to ask others for help even at the age of 35. I try so hard to handle every situation or task on my own, which can be a great trait sometimes, but often times it can be a huge burden. And my mental health issues are very serious, I couldn’t handle it on my own, no matter how much I had tried to. It even stings a little for me to admit it now, in this very post. However, it’s the truth. ;^_^>
In my first years of therapy in Philadelphia, I was prescribed a few anti-depressants, some helped a little and others just made my situation worse. It took trial and error to find the correct medication for me, which was a low dose of Lexapro. I stayed on the medication for a year, but after some time in therapy treatment, I didn’t need to take it anymore.
After two years, my therapist was transferred to another clinic (one that my insurance did not cover), so I was forced to have a new one. And the new therapist was terrible and unprofessional, she would make fun of how I dressed in sessions and things like that. After two weeks of getting nowhere and walking away from my sessions feeling like crap, I decided to quit therapy and go back to handling my issues on my own.
I had managed to keep myself stable for five years, but then the depression returned. It started small, but by 2012, I began to entertain the idea of suicide once again. However, I caught myself and decided that my environment was wholly unhealthy for me. I lived with drug addicts and criminals, I barely ate nor took care of my own hygiene, my health and eyesight were fading fast. At that point, I decided that I will not keep up the charade of staying in that environment and pretending that everything was okay.
My sister and her best friend (our roommate) were so kind enough to allow me to live with them in Minnesota. It took four months for me to save up enough money for the move, but I was determined to live, to not sink back into depression and suicidal attempts. It’s wasn’t a perfect escape, as I had to leave my cat behind for a while, but it was an escape to a better life for me all the same. ^_^
After I had settled in a bit, I asked my medical doctor for a referral to a good therapist. My doctor pointed me to the best therapist ever (Dr. Brenda) and I’ve been managing my mental illness well with Dr. Brenda’s help. I’m not taking any medication because I don’t need it for my particular case, our sessions are a mix of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and learning much needed social skills. I haven’t had a suicidal thought since 2012 and my depression is very mild currently.
Most days, I’m happy and contented! And on my black dog days, I know just what to do! One of the things I do is to visit and read my posts here on this blog, to remind myself how far I’ve traveled in life thus far and I fight the lies of the dog, “You’ve never had a happy day in your life and you never will. You’re better off dead!”. Bad dog! That’s not true, you mutt! Where’s my rolled up newspaper? *thwack* >_>
Beyond my rambling, I really want to make a very important speech here, about mental illness. People who suffer it shouldn’t feel ashamed for it, nor does having mental illness means that you are “crazy”. Nor should you feel bad for taking medication (if it’s needed), any more than a cancer patient should feel bad for taking chemo. It’s important for you to do what is best to protect yourself from succumbing to your illness and to have the best quality of life, not to suffer in silence in order to keep up a social facade. And that social farce, in the end of all things, means nothing and is useless anyway.
You deserve to be happy. You deserve the best of what life has to offer. It’s okay to ask for and accept help for this issue. And most of all, I promise you, everything is going to be OKAY. You will get through this and experience true happiness on the other side. There are so many awesome things waiting just for you! So, keep fighting the black dog, keep moving forward, and don’t worry about what everyone else may or may not think about it!
Yes, sometimes it’s a struggle. Sometimes it’s SUPER difficult and you may want to just give up. It’s okay to feel that sometimes, but don’t linger in that emotion for too long. Cry a little, then roll up your sleeves and continue to march on. You can do this, trust me! I’m cheering for you! ^o^/*
And that’s not just a message to others who are dealing with mental illness, it is a little note for myself as well. In spite of having mental illnesses, it’s TOTALLY possible to live a happy and “normal” life (whatever the hell that means! lol). It’s completely possible to manage it down to a tiny palm-size pup and to gain a very contented worthwhile life.
I’ve done so and I’m not “special” or lucky, nor popular, nor super attractive, nor rich, nor especially intelligent. My IQ score is average, folks! If I’ve managed to achieve it, I believe that it’s possible for anyone else to do so as well, as long as they believe it can happen for them AND if they have the best support circle (therapy, understanding friends or relatives, or a caring community) to show understanding and compassion to them along their journey.
I would love to see the day when mental illness is no longer a thing to hide or to feel ashamed about. I would love to see the day when comments of “KYS” (kill yourself) isn’t thrown around online so much as a way to insult others, as it could seriously hurt someone with severe depression or encourage a person further to take their own lives. I would love to see the day when society doesn’t make fun of “crazy” people or to scoff at people who need to take anti-depressant medication in order to function.
Most of all, I would love to see the day when people are able to have compassion for others without having to share the same experience in order to spare a little bit of understanding, respect, and kindness. Not just for mental illness, but for many other subjects in today’s society. This world would be a better place for everyone, when or if that happens, I think.
Anyway, thanks for reading yet another LONG post! Ha! And today’s song is: ECHOS – Gold. Be excellent to each other and I wish you all the best on your journeys! ^_^v